The mainland has agreed not to issue multiple-visit permits to non-residents of Shenzhen for three weeks until there had been further assessment of its impact on Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced on Friday afternoon.
Leung said no permits would be given out in the next three weeks, allowing time for governments to engage in conversation. His comment did not indicate a postponement of rule changes: Guangdong authorities usually need 15 working days to assess applications.
“The central government has agreed that Hong Kong’s capacity to receive them [the visitors] must be assessed and the number of visitors be adjusted according to actual situation,” he said.
Leung said the agreement came after he reflected on Hongkongers’ concern over Shenzhen’s new travel permit rules to the central government.
The new policy would have allowed 4.1 million non-residents of Shenzhen to enter Hong Kong from Saturday using multiple-visit visas under the Individual Visit Scheme.
Leung said a group of Hong Kong officials would meet their mainland counterparts in the coming three weeks to discuss the new scheme’s impact and the setting up of a mechanism for Hong Kong and Shenzhen to decide on a suitable number of visitors.
The group would be led by Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung.
Lai said they would tell the mainland about the capacities of Hong Kong’s border checkpoints and tourist attraction points so that Shenzhen could have a better idea of reasonable numbers when issuing permits.
Individual Visit Scheme permits were previously available only to Shenzhen’s 2.8 million holders of hukou or residents’ permits. Non-permanent residents had to return to their home provinces to apply for permits.
The move to allow millions more visitors to cross the border has been causing consternation among many Hong Kong residents, who feel the surge will overwhelm local infrastructure and push up prices of consumer goods.